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Are Women Obligated in "Zachor"

On Shabbat, March 20th we will read the special section in the Torah describing our obligation to remember to eradicate the nation of Amalek from the face of the earth. According to the Sefer HaChinuch [Mitzva 603], this mitzvah is only incumbent upon men, because men are the only ones obligated to wage wars.

However, the Minchat Chinuch [ibid.] disagrees and argues that even women are obligated in this mitzvah, and therefore, must listen to this special Torah reading. His reasoning is that when it comes to an obligatory war ["milchemet mitzva"], the Talmud states: "everyone must participate in the battle, even the bride from under her chuppah" [Talmud Sotah 44b].

The Sochotchover Rebbe supported the former position and explained that since the mitzvah to kill Amalek is not in effect on Shabbat, therefore, it is a "time-bound" mitzvah for which women are traditionally exempt [Avnei Nezer Orech Chaim 509]. On the other hand, Rabbi Nathan Adler, as well as the Munkatcher Rebbe agreed with the former position and ruled that women are obligated to hear this Torah reading and should attend shul [Binyan Tzion 2:8; Minchat Elazar 2:1,5]. A third position was that women are obligated to hear this reading, but not necessarily as read from a Torah, and can, therefore, fulfill the mitzvah at home [Kaf HaChayim Orech Chaim 685 note 30; Teshuvot v'Hanhagot 2:344].

The most common custom today is that women do attend shul to hear this special Torah reading. However, it may also be fulfilled, either at the regular time that this portion is read (during the summer) or even when the portion of Beshalach is read (on the morning of Purim), and a similar statement about Amalek is found in that portion [Magen Avraham ibid.]. However, the former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank suggested that in such a case, the Torah reader should also have the intention to act on behalf of those wishing to fulfill the mitzvah [Har Tzvi 1:58].

Fri, March 5 2021 21 Adar 5781